Promotions in the minor leagues can often be a funny thing. There are certainly cases where a top prospect dominates his competition to earn a promotion, but often it’s the players who aren’t nearly as highly touted who get called up when a higher-level team has a roster spot to fill. Jonathan Quinonez played a super-utility role for the Hudson Valley Renegades and is doing the same thing with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. But even if it was sheer luck that he was brought up to High-A, he has an opportunity to prove himself and could change his standing in the organization for ever if he has a few more days like he had on Saturday.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 4, Columbus Clippers (CLE) 2
The pitching matchup in this one pitted two pitchers who are as close to polar opposites of each other as you’ll find. J.D. Martin throws his fastball in just the high-80′s while Trevor Bauer touches the high-90′s. Martin was a solid big league pitcher who lost his rotation spot from misfortune while Bauer is the top prospect who should be all accounts be establishing himself in the major leagues by now but isn’t because of his enigmatic tendencies. And Martin entered his start against the Clippers having walked 1.5 batters per 9 innings while Bauer had walked 4.7, plus 8.5 per 9 in 4 big league starts. At the end of the day, it was the veteran Martin outpacing the hotshot Bauer to send Durham to victory over Columbus. Martin went 6 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Bauer, meanwhile, lasted just 5 innings allowed 3 runs, 1 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 2 while walking 3. The Bulls got him for 3 runs in his last 2 innings, with Cole Figueroa lacing a 2-run single in the 4th before Jason Bourgeois knocked in another run with his single in the 5th. Those runs gave Durham the lead, and Martin and the Bulls bullpen made it stand up. Josh Lueke tossed 2 shutout innings for the Bulls, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 1. He lowered his ERA to 0.57, lower than Fernando Rodney‘s 2012 season. Kirby Yates tossed a perfect 9th with 2 groundouts and a strikeout for his 13th save. His ERA certainly isn’t too shabby either at 1.32. Could either pitcher emerge as a bullpen option for the Rays as the season wears on? Chris Gimenez also went 2 for 4 with a run scored in the win for the Bulls. Everything came together for the Bulls on this one as Martin pitched well again to improve his record to 13-4 on the season, the offense came up with a pair of clutch hits, and Lueke and Yates were on lock down out of the bullpen to seal the victory. The Bulls have the best record in the International League at 68-40 (.630), up 12.5 games on the second place team in their division and 5.5 games on the second place team in the league.
Double-A Southern League: Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 1
The Biscuits’ 1-0 lead after 6 innings came crashing down after back-to-back-to-back homers off Victor Mateo fueled a 5-run 7th for the Suns as they won 5-1. Mateo actually had a no-hitter through 6 innings, allowing just 2 walks while striking out 4. But former Biscuit Derek Dietrich ended that in the 7th, drilling a solo homer, and Mark Canha and Zack Cox followed with more of the same to give Jacksonville a 3-1 lead. Mateo did retire the next two batters, but three more hits and two more runs ended his night in bitter disappointment. Mateo went 6.2 innings allowing 5 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Braulio Lara did follow with a nice outing, going 1.1 innings allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 2. Lara has ridden his 100 MPH fastball to pitch outstanding of late, not allowing a run across 7.1 innings in his last 4 appearances, but he has just a 6-5 strikeout to walk ratio over that span as he still has no idea where his pitches are going. Austin Hubbard struck out 1 in a perfect 9th for Montgomery, and Robi Estrada plated their only run with a solo homer. Rough game for Mateo and the Biscuits as that one tough inning sent everything crashing down.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 11, Tampa Yankees 6
You may very well hear this game being covered by the popular media, and here’s what they’ll tell you “Curtis Granderson went 2 for 4 with a run scored and Jayson Nix went 0 for 4 with a strikeout in their rehab games as the Tampa Yankees lost 11-6 to the Charlotte Stone Crabs.” While that one-liner may carry the most immediate major league concern from this game, it was far from the only excitement in the Stone Crabs’ win. Ryan Carpenter had a rough start for Charlotte, but Andrew Bellatti and the bullpen stepped up and several members of the lineup had banner days. Carpenter went 4.2 innings allowing 6 runs on 7 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3 as his ERA rose to 6.29 in his last 10 games (9 starts) and 4.79 overall. Carpenter has to find a way to get back under control as his strikeout to walk ratio has slipped from 54-13 in his first 58.1 innings to just 36-20 in his last 48.2. But Andrew Bellatti managed to get the Stone Crabs’ ship back on course with 3.1 shutout relief innings, allowing just 3 hits while striking out 4. Bellatti was hit hard when the Rays promoted Bellatti to Montgomery early in the season, but he has been excellent during his time at Charlotte, managing a 2.55 ERA and a 35-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 35.1 innings pitched. Bruedlin Suero finished the game in his first appearance for the Stone Crabs since early May because of injury, working around a hit with a strikeout in his scoreless 9th.
Now let’s talk about the offense. The Stone Crabs hit Yankees pitching hard from the start, scoring 5 runs in the top of the 1st, 3 of which came on a Jonathan Quinonez 3-run double. Quinonez, who was among the New York-Penn League doubles leaders when he was promoted to Charlotte last week, notched his first two High-A doubles in this game as he went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI and a run scored. Quinonez has a long way to go proving that his .337 average at Hudson Valley is a sign of a real breakthrough, but a game like this is certainly a great place to start. Quinonez’s partner in crime in this one was Jeff Malm, who had an even bigger game, going 2 for 4 with a homer, a walk, 5 RBI, and 3 runs scored. Malm is in the midst of a long-term hot streak, managing a .309/.362/.474 line with 11 doubles, 7 homers, and 33 RBI in 53 games and 211 plate appearances since May 22nd, but Saturday was his best game yet. The Stone Crabs happened to have a strange defensive alignment thanks to off-days for Drew Vettleson adn Kes Carter, with Malm starting in right field for the first time all season and Quinonez, usually an infielder, sliding to left field, but after the days they had at the plate, maybe it’s something the Stone Crabs could consider doing again. Richie Shaffer also had a nice game, going 2 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored, and Jake DePew went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs. This was certainly a very different game from the Rays-Yankees 1-0 contest in the major leagues, but great to see Malm and Quinonez have huge games to make sure Rays affiliates went 2-0 against Yankees affiliates on the day.
Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 4, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
Jeff Ames entered his start against the Lugnuts with an outstanding 2.43 ERA, but even the best pitchers have bad days and that was the case for him in this one as the Hot Rods lost 4-1. Ames went 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2 as well. Austin Pruitt tossed perfect ball for the final 2.1 innings, striking out 1. On the offensive side, there was not a ton to be found, but Joey Rickard did go 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, and the only RBI while Andrew Toles stole his 47th base. Toles leads the Midwest League in stolen bases and is tied for 7th-most in the entire minor leagues.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 4, Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 3
Sketchy relief made this one scary, but the Renegades found a way to hold on. Jamie Schultz got the start for Hudson Valley and was dominant for his 4 innings, allowing just a hit while striking out 3. Strong relief work prompted the Renegades to move Schultz into the rotation for his last 3 appearances, and while Schultz has not been able to provide much length, he has allowed just 2 runs in 9 innings of work. The going was tougher for the Renegades’ relief corps, but Andrew Hanse tossed 3 innings of one-run ball allowing just 2 hits while striking out 3 to provide some stability between tough outings for Colton Reavis and Justin Choate to help the Renegades edge out the Ironbirds. On the offensive side, Julian Morillo had a 2-run single in the Renegades’ 3-run 2nd, and Granden Goetzman and Ariel Soriano had the other RBIs. Goetzman had a nice game, going 1 for 2 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, and RBI, and a run scored, and Johnny Field went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored. Goetzman is hitting just .187 on the season between Bowling Green and Hudson Valley, but the former second round pick has hit in four straight games and has stolen 14 bases on the season, and you have to hope that he’s finally starting to hit his stride. The Renegades stole 7 bases on the day to key their offense, and it was lucky that they did because they needed all the runs they could manage to win this game.